President's Forum

118 President's Forum will include the State of the Society Address
Monday, May 19 | 12:00 p.m. – 1:45 p.m.


JEFF F. MILLER; Univ. of California Sch. of Med., Los Angeles, CA


Handelsman Jo 01 credit Michael Marsland Yale University    JO HANDELSMAN; Yale Univ., New Haven CT
Graham-Hatfull-photo GRAHAM HATFULL; Univ. of Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh, PA

Engaging students in research experiences early in their education boosts retention of college students in STEM disciplines.  Consequently, several expert panels have recommended making research experiences broadly available to first- and second-year college students. Research courses not only promote retention and activate interest in the sciences, but can also advance the research agenda.  Although not all disciplines are well suited to engaging novice students in authentic research, microbiology is rich in possibilities. The President's Forum will highlight two innovative programs that successfully integrate authentic, discovery-based research early in the undergraduate curriculum. The Science Education Alliance Phage Hunters Advancing Genomics and Evolutionary Science (SEA-PHAGES) program – initiated in 2008 – is well established and now includes more than 70 institutions, with over 2,000 freshman undergraduates in the current year. SEA-PHAGES uses bacteriophage discovery and genomics as a platform to directly engage students in authentic research, and takes advantage of the vast phage population and its immense diversity. The collection of over 650 completely sequenced mycobacteriophages generated by SEA-PHAGES offers many insights into viral novelty, diversity, and evolution, and SEA-PHAGES students have higher rates of retention in STEM. The second program, The Small World Initiative (SWI), is a new program that responds to the recent antibiotic crisis by crowdsourcing the discovery of new antibiotics with freshmen and sophomore students. SWI students culture soil microbes, screen for antibiotic activity against pathogens, identify the microbes by 16S rRNA sequencing, and extract active metabolites. With 26 schools and over 800 students in the first year of the program, large numbers of microbes have been isolated and screened as potential sources of new antibiotics.

Audience members will learn about student outcomes and results of the SEA-PHAGES program as well as initial results from implementation of the Small World Initiative. Additionally, audience members will have an opportunity to meet SEA-PHAGES and Small World Initiative instructors and students who will be in attendance at the President's Forum.